Editor’s Note (June, 2015): The ZCA Stack product described below has been discontinued. Those (few) of you who are intrigued by the concept can roll your own, however. A couple of products are recommended below.
I must admit I was a bit surprised to read that the ZCA Stack is “a world shaking development in the weight loss industry.” Surely if the ZCA Stack really were the “single most revolutionary diet pill in a decade” as the retailers claim, I would have heard doctors and fitness professionals raving about it on local and national news stations. Or at least read something about it in a credible newspaper.
Surprisingly, it appears that despite the “obesity epidemic”, health professionals are spurning this miraculous” product. I mean that’s got to be the reason, right? The only other reason I can think of that I haven’t seen anything about this product is that ZCA Stack is neither particularly effective or revolutionary.
Which is it?
To explain, let’s have a closer look at the ZCA Stack…
Back in the old days when ephedra was legal, the most effective fat burners were based on what was called the ECA stack (Xenadrine RFA-1, reviewed here, was one such fat burner).
This stack was a combination of ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin usually combined in the ratio of 20 mg of ephedra alkaloids to 200 mg of caffeine to 300 mg salicin (1:10:15).
The ZCA stack is a “spin off” of the ECA stack. Instead of combining ephedra with caffeine and aspirin, it combines synephrine (from Advantra Z) with these two ingredients.
And herein lies the problem.
You see, there is plenty of clinical evidence that validates ephedra/ephedrine and the ephedra stack for weight loss (see Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Nov;28(11):1411-9, Obes Res. 2004 Jul;12(7):1152-7, Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Mar;25(3):316-24, Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Oct;30(10):1545-56, Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2005 Jan-Feb;32(1-2):47-53).
However there is no evidence to indicate that the combination of synephrine, caffeine, and aspirin is a particularly useful one for weight loss. In fact synephrine, once thought to hold the most promise as a credible alternative to ephedra, has been proven to be largely ineffective for weight loss.
One study, (Am J Cardiol. 2004 Nov 15;94(10):1359-61) on the “Safety and efficacy of citrus aurantium for weight loss” concluded…
“An extensive search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS, and the Cochrane Collaboration Database identified only 1 eligible randomized placebo controlled trial, which followed 20 patients for 6 weeks, demonstrated no statistically significant benefit for weight loss, and provided limited information about the safety of the herb.”
There certainly is no evidence, as the retailers claims, that the ZCA Stack “not only matched the results of the ECA Stack but superceded it!”
Caffeine, of course, has benefits as a thermogenic. It’s effects on weight loss have long been established (see Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50, Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 May;33(5):989-97).
Unfortunately, the ZCA stack’s caffeine content does not justify purchasing this product (you can buy caffeine on its own for pennies). If you wanted to experiment with the ZCA stack, you could do so for a whole lot less money (I saw the ZCA stack retailing online for $59.99!).
For instance, through the online retailer BodyBuilding.com you could buy…
- 1 bottle 180 capsules PrimaForce Syneburn Synephrine ($11.98)
- 1 bottle 100 capsules (200 mg) AllMax Nutrition Caffeine ($3.99)
… and then pick up a bottle of aspirin at your local drug store. Stack them together — two Syneburn with one caffeine and one aspirin will give you the approximate dosage of a single ZCA stack serving — for about a third of the cost (I’m not suggesting this will be a particularly effective fat burner, I only use this an example on how overpriced this product is).
What’s the bottom line on the ZCA stack?
The retailers of this product would like you to think that to duplicate the effectiveness of the ephedra stack, all you need to do is to swap one ingredient for another. It’s not, and never is, that simple.
Worse, there’s nothing in the way of evidence to justify the claims made by the retailers regarding the effectiveness of the ZCA Stack. On their own, the ingredients hardly generate incredible results… together, there’s no evidence to indicate the sum of the whole is greater than its individual parts.
And until we have independently confirmed studies of its effectiveness, you’re much better off focusing on products that do a have some real science behind them.